A family of Pakistani immigrants living in San Francisco public housing was improperly denied an emergency transfer to another apartment after someone broke into their home, desecrated their Quran, defaced their passports and shredded their traditional clothing, according to a federal court lawsuit.

After the August 2005 incident – which took place during a time of intensified anti-Muslim sentiment in the country and while the San Francisco Housing Authority was under court order to better protect tenants from hate-motivated crimes – agency officials ruled that the break-in at Ashan Khan’s apartment was a simple burglary and didn’t qualify the family for an emergency apartment transfer, the family says.

According to the suit, which was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Housing Authority officials also were slow to secure their apartment in the Potrero Terrace/Annex project after the incident to protect the Khans against future break-ins.

“I was really upset,” said Khan, explaining – with the help of a translator – that he and his family were harassed from the time they moved in to the Potrero Hill housing development, first by neighbors who accused the Khans of being terrorists, then by threatening graffiti painted next to their front door depicting a man dressed like Khan with a gun to his head.

“We were afraid somebody was going to come back and hurt us,” he said of the days and weeks after the Aug. 28, 2005, break-in and vandalism.


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